Monday, April 17, 2017

Laraway Youth Participate in Advocacy Day at Vermont Legislature

     Laraway youth participated in an advocacy training day at the Vermont State House in Montpelier. They learned about the legislative process (i.e., how a bill becomes a law) and how to contact their legislators to advocate for topics important to them. During the training they picked apart a bill on raising the minimum wage, a significant issue for young people entering the paid work force, many in minimum wage, service sector jobs. During the activity they all agreed the minimum wage should be raised. They also identified who might be opposed to such a bill: employers facing slim profit margins. 
     Sitting in on and observing the workings of legislative committees was also an important part of the experience. Youth witnessed Bethany Pombar, Executive Director of the Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs (VCRHYP) testify before a House committee on a bill addressing housing for youth. Overall, youth representing Laraway behaved appropriately during these sessions even, it shall be noted, when some of the adults in the room presented challenging examples of role modelling. Legislative environments can be stressful when high stakes issues are considered!
      During lunch, a member of the House of Representatives from Dover approached the youths' table in the State House cafeteria and started chatting. All youth shared their transition goals---an important bridge to adulthood---but especially important for youth who've been in state's custody. Two were fairly engaged throughout conversations, articulately noting changes they'd like to see to ease their transitions. One youth suggested that Guardian ad litems (GALs) should be Educational Surrogates when possible, not placing this expectation on foster parents.  Another youth suggested better regulations for quality foster homes. The third youth did not share their view publicly, but shared with the Laraway group their feeling that law enforcement needs to be trauma informed. The representative from Dover encouraged our youth to reach out to their local representatives. 
       There was a photo op with Senator Bobby Starr of Orleans County and friendly introductions and exchanges with Lt. Governor David Zuckerman. Youth received a tour of the State House and witnessed House passage of a resolution naming the day, April 13, 2017, as Youth Development Program (YDP) and Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs (VCRHYP) Youth Awareness Day.  
      It was a long---11 hours---and exciting day.  Laraway youth participants expressed satisfaction that they attended and would encourage other youth to participate in the future. Spending time talking with legislators and meeting Lt. Governor Zuckerman were highlights.  The representative from Dover was phenomenal---super genuine and engaging.  Another great day with our youth! 

Note:  Thank you, Mollie Norcross, for providing details for this story.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Laraway co-hosts Screenings of Film "Resilience"

     Laraway, in partnership with Lamoille Restorative Center, Lamoille Family Center, Lamoille County Mental Health Services, Johnson State College, Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union, Community College of Vermont and Healthy Lamoille Valley is sponsoring screenings of the new documentary Resilience.
     The film, a follow-up to Paper Tigers, which was presented last year at public screenings in the area, looks at the research surrounding ACEs or Adverse Childhood Experiences.  We are learning that negative childhood experiences can adversely impact not only emotional health and behavior, but also physical health.
     The following screenings are free and open to the public:  March 21, 6:00 p.m at Hazen Union High School; March 29, 6:00 p.m. at Johnson State College; and April 3 at 6:00 p.m. at Green Mountain Technical and Career Center.  A panel discuss will follow.
     For more information on the film, please visit